I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want 2012 to end.
It was a year where I got to spend a lot of time with moviegoing friends that I only knew as avatars and Twitter handles. First I packed my bag to meet a few and discovered that movielovers are the same no matter where in the world they call home. As if that wasn’t gift enough, two months later I got to do it all over again…but in my own town, in the theatres I call home away from home.
As if the social end of it wasn’t reward enough (and it was), what we all gathered to watch on-screen and discuss (and discuss…and discuss…) was pretty darned good in its own right! In recent years, it feels like we’ve had to stand knee-deep in the river, and pan through the mud for the good stuff. Now, suddenly in 2012, the big studios remembered how to deliver good movies. Is this a trend that will continue? Can producers and executives learn a lesson from a year where audiences returned in record numbers? Here’s hoping. After all, as much fun as it is to dig for the goods, we should also be able to take a short walk up to the multiplex and be treated to something worthwhile.
The trend might well end at the toll of midnight, but here’s hoping 2013 brings more of the same.
As for the year that was…
Ryan’s Top Five Films of 2012
#5. DJANGO UNCHAINED
I watched this film a mere five days ago. In between then and now, I’ve found it difficult to articulate just why I dug it as much as I did (after the review and the podcast, this now makes for my third attempt). The film deserves props for riding the razor’s edge of bad taste where the American history of slavery is concerned. Even in succeeding as well as I believe he does, Tarantino has received a high amount of flak for his choice of subject matter, little of which I believe is deserved. The fact that the film was able to make such hateful discussion crackle is no easy task – one wrong move and the whole thing becomes one giant exercise in disrespect. Happily, Tarantino is able to keep his footing on the tightrope, allowing moments like the one pictured above – a former slave taking a whip to a slave driver – to play for a twisted catharsis.
What we are given is an unlikely companion piece to INGLORIOUS BASTERDS; and like that film, a story in which every last bullet is used to maximum effect.
(Full DJANGO UNCHAINED review here)
As a foreigner looking inward, it feels as though America is at a crossroads. It’s the sort of junction they have found themselves at before, one that does not allow one more step without serious consideration. What I’m left wondering, is whether a film like LINCOLN might help them to realize that historically speaking, the walk down the right path has never come without a serious amount of debate and ill-intent.
There has been some question as to whether Abraham Lincoln is too deified in Steven Spielberg’s movie, a question which leaves me puzzled. After all, the man we are shown is a man struggling to keep control of his own family, a man who is questioned by his own political party, and a man who is completely vilified by his political opposition. While he ultimately is able to pass the historic measure of the 13th amendment, he is not able to do so without serious bargaining, arm-twisting, and in some cases flat-out lying. “Honest Abe” indeed.
Such a tack is not what one would expect from a director like Spielberg who can be prone to lionizing his subjects…but it’s the tack that makes the film a fascinating watch.
(Full LINCOLN review here)
There shouldn’t be any surprises contained within AMOUR. For starters, it tackles a subject that the majority of us have faced in one way or another. If we haven’t had to watch our own partner shuffle off this mortal coil with agonizing slowness, we’ve seen a parent endure it…or a grandparent…or a dear friend. It’s an inevitability; one we don’t think about on those first few exciting dates, and certainly not when we gussy ourselves up to say “I do”.
What’s more, even if we have forgotten about what we’re in for, what Michael Haneke hands us is a film that begins with the discovery of a body. The fate of Emmanuelle Riva is one of the very first things we encounter as the story unfurls.
And yet, when it’s over, we still find ourselves shaken and shocked. From a film that spends so much of its runtime sailing on a rather even keel, it’s amazing that it is able to do these things…and yet it does them all with grace. AMOUR is one of the saddest, most startling, and most beautiful films of the year. One that’s bound to stick with you for a long time.
(TIFF reaction to AMOUR here)
A good friend of mine just called ARGO “the best reviewed three-star film of the year”. He’s not entirely wrong. After all, here is a film that follows the beats of a standard political drama. So what is it that makes it such a fascinating watch? In a word: execution.
There’s nothing about the Iran Hostage Crisis that was funny, and yet there are plenty of laughs to be had in ARGO. It’s a story many people knew the end of, and yet many of those same people found their knuckles white with tension. Like I said: execution.
So am I saying that a film should be praised because it nails every beat that it lays out? Yes, yes I am. Why am I suggesting that? Because it seems like with every passing week, and every passing nitpick of a tweet, Hollywood is finding it harder and harder to execute these days. So when a studio film comes along that is able to deliver on its promise, create something handsome, witty, and memorable – it’s reason to stop and take note.
(Full ARGO review here)
On the Year-End Matineecast, Lindsay pointed out to me that I’ve started countering the PROMETHEUS blowback by overselling it, so I’ll try to dial that back today.
What I like most about PROMETHEUS isn’t what it adds to the cannon of the ALIEN universe, but the ideas it ponders within its own framework. Month after month, it feels like we are witness to another prequel, sequel, remake, or reboot. Very few of them have anything of much value to say about the world they are expounding upon, let alone the world of us in the audience. These films just want to tap on some familiar beats, get us to an expected ending point, and make a run for it with $300M of our hard-earned. Then along comes PROMETHEUS, which isn’t all that interested in neatly tying a bow around a world we’ve been exploring for thirty-plus years. Instead of unveiling the origin of the beacon, it’s more interested in exploring the origin of mankind. Pretty audacious for a franchise left for dead not all that long ago.
In addition, PROMETHEUS carries at its core a theme that many of us (myself included) should pay more attention to: arrogance. It’s the story of an arrogant industrialist in search of an arrogant result. Right behind him are some arrogant scientists that arrogantly believe they have a right to come face to face with their creators. As is often the result when arrogance gets too far out of check, everyone faces huge consequences.
It’s that warning against arrogance that has made PROMETHEUS stick with me as the year’s top dog. In a time where we all think we know what’s best and what’s right, we all carry with us an air of arrogance that needs to be curbed if we’re ever going to be able to listen to one-another and really get anywhere.
For that lesson, and the visual splendour that it was told with, PROMETHEUS is my top film of 2012.
(Full PROMETHEUS review here)
Other films on my shortlist for 2012 include ANNA KARENINA, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, BRAVE, CLOUD ATLAS, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, LIFE OF PI, LOOPER, THE MASTER, MOONRISE KINGDOM, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, RUST AND BONE, SAMSARA, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and SKYFALL